Beginning again...again

((I'm making the whole Kazu's homepage fight into a dream, just because))




Rigel woke with a start, hitting his head in the process. "Ow..."

He had fallen asleep just after finishing what would be his third navi. He still couldn't believe Swing was gone as well. At least he knew Swing was still alive though...after all, he had given Swing the ability to carry his own chips, then released him. He almost wished he hadn't done so...that Fireblade was quite an asset.

Rigel shook his head vigorously...that dream was still haunting him. Swing...IPC soldier navis...and a few allies as well...some guy in a cloak, a wizard navi, someone he couldn't describe very well...and a female least in appearance...carrying a rather large gun. That female navi had been important somehow. They had been fighting on a blank homepage, and... Rigel shook his head again. It was just a dream, he told himself. The walls of his base had seemed to go white for a second, and the floor the color of steel, but after shaking his head again they returned to normal.

He looked at his PET. The now completed Pianissimo, his new navi, was sleeping soundly. Rigel figured it was time to take the new guy for a spin, if for no other reason than to see what he was like. Though Rigel had been extremely careful when programming Pianissimo's personality, unexpected things sometimes happen. Swing was a rather good example of that.

Rigel pressed a button on his PET to activate communications between real and cyber worlds. "Hey, Pianissimo, wake up," he said.

"Du.., w.a. .. .t? I.'. 5 i. .h. m...i.g."

Rigel checked Pianissimo's voice settings. They hadn't been fully activated they were. "I'm sorry, can you say that again?"

"I said, 'Duke, what is it? It's 5 in the morning?"

Then why is it so bright outside? he asked himself, checking the time on his laptop. 11 AM.

Damn time zones. Damn 6 hour difference between here and Sharo.

After fixing the time, mp3 volume, e-mail settings, navicust settings, battle chips (I could have SWORN I gave Swing the rageclaw, not the sword chip), NewsServ updates (Darkchips? Cybeasts? That was 20 years ago!), and a bunch of other problems, Rigel finally jacked Pianissimo into the net.
"Well, that was a bust," remarked Pianissimo, as he returned to his PET. "Now what?"

Rigel thought about this for a second. "I'd say...go somewhere else. This town rarely has any activity, so..."

Pianissimo considered the options. Stay here and be bored, or go somewhere else and not be bored...hopefully. [color=gray]"Where'd you have in mind?"[COLOR] he asked.

"I'm thinking...Yoka. If nothing else, people always seem to flock to the Onsen there."

"The hotsprings?"


"Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's go."

Rigel didn't need telling twice. By the time Pianissimo had finished saying this, he had already walked out of his base and locked the door to it. Since he was coming back, he didn't feel any need to take it to Yoka with him.
Coming back from Yoka, Rigel reconnected the PET and pulled up a few old files on the computer, trying to figure out where he remembered Kazu from. A few files dealing with the Rogues, a party that turned sour in a similar fashion to this one...scilab break-in...that only tells me that he was there, and that at one time he had been labeled a criminal. Other than that...nothing.

It was amazing what time could do to one's memory, he could barely remember his own experiences from that time.

Rigel decided not to worry about it for the moment, deciding instead to check up on Pianissimo. "You doing okay in there?" Rigel asked.

"ACK!...some sort of blizzard attack...I'll get back to you when this stops"
((And now...the dream from my first post becomes a memory.))

Man, those guys are tougher than I gave them credit for. Not that that's saying much...I didn't give them much of any credit at all. thought Rigel, continuing to operate Pianissimo while keeping an eye on the BBS. Then a particular post caught his eye.

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(@ Kazuhiro) Wait a tick, I know that name! My grandson said that his Navi was in this grand old fight in your homepage some seven years ago. It was against those IPC dogs, and he said that they were after a criminal apparantly. You know him? His Navi's name was Infinity, and he was a guy in a big black cloak and he had big black wings.

Wait a minute... he said to himself, writing a reply that didn't reveal too much, and asking about the so-called "Sexy Ninjas" at the netsquare, simply because he thought it peculiar.

Suddenly the dream from that morning came flooding back to him. Blank homepage...IPC...Cloaked navi with wings...that had to be it. The dream had to have been a flashback to the battle on Kazu's homepage seven years previous, of which he only had scattered memories.

Had it been a coincidence that his new navi had met up with Kazu's new one? Rigel doubted it.
"Pianissimo...are there any more viruses around?" asked Rigel, standing up.
"Not at the moment." was the response.
"Good, I'm going to buy some more chips. Maybe something a little more useful than that claw thing."
"Got it. Try not to get caught in an overly long line there, okay?"

"As if I could help it," mumbled Rigel, walking out of his base and over to the chip store.
Walking back out of the chip store, Rigel settled down on one of the benches in ACDC park. He didn't know if Kazu was coming back, but it was nice to spend some time outside that shelter nonetheless.

Rigel pulled out his PET and checked the signal strength, though he already knew from experience that he was still well within wireless range. One of these days, he would invest in a new laptop, or if nothing else a battery that didn't claim to last four hours and actually last one, if even that much. But this wasn't the time to worry about that. Pianissimo had been caught in some form of dark trap, and Rigel had just needed to calm him down enough to actually think about how to get out. Given Pianissimo's normal personality, this was actually surprising. Rigel figured it had most likely been caused by something having to th with the dark tendril that had been binding him.
A dark blue sedan pulled up by the street, and Kazu emerged, with Sarah close behind. He was balancing a large laptop on his shoulder, with his PET attached to the side and his chip folder in his other hand. Sarah was smiling.

"Sorry that took so long," she said.
Kazu, on the other hand, wasn't. Within a few minutes of sitting next to Rigel, before he had even exchanged greetings, he had his hands clamped over his mouth.

"Soulman," he whispered. "And Ayumi. My God."

Sarah looked puzzled, and looked helplessly at Rigel, hoping he would know more than she. Kazu, sensing this, looked up just as he jacked his Navis out of the net. A small sound came from his earpiece, but he gave no sign of acknowledging it.

"Sorry to do this to you, Rigel," he said, with honesty in his voice. "I really thought I was going to get my chance to disappear once and for all."
Jacking Pianissimo out as well, Rigel echoed the thoughts of his navi. "Swing...whatever you do, stay alive."

He was in shock from the whole ordeal as well. Soulman...Ayumi...that undernet all seemed to run together. If Soulman had been deleted...what would become of Requiem? Or had it already fallen apart? He himself had fallen out of contact with them, but Swing hadn't. Yet Rigel never bothered to ask what had become of it, even before releasing him.

Hearing Kazu's 'apology', Rigel remembered something...something he hadn't even mentioned to Kazu seven years ago, when the experience was still relatively fresh in his memory.

"To disappear...I tried that once. Back even before I designed Swing, when Mysterioso was my navi. I became a wanderer in the real world, and he only frequented the deepest parts of the net. I guess the first sign that it was going to be hard to just vanish completely from the world came when Mysterioso started having to solve everything himself...due to general incompetence among the NetPolice and even a large percentage of the netbattling community."

Rigel paused. The story seemed easier to tell than it would have been seven years ago, despite now having to rack his brain for the details.

"I guess what really brought me back was having to start over. About three months before first meeting you, we found an area of the net beyond the Undernet. We came across several monstrous entities there that managed to beat Mysterioso within an inch of his life. But for some reason he vanished before one of them could land a final blow. No traces of being deleted, and he certainly didn't jack out. Heck, I tried jacking him out after he disappeared, but nothing happened."

Rigel sighed. Other than thinking he saw Mysterioso a few times, he never did learn any more about what had happened.

"The rest is pretty much history. I design Swing, and am essentially forced to return to society. Since then, I've had even less luck trying to just disappear, even after falling out of contact with Requiem."

Rigel sighed once more. "Sorry, didn't mean to give a speech."
Kazu didn't appear to be listening as he typed away at his computer, clearly multitasking. A BBS flashed across his screen over the image of his Navi jacking out in a spectacularly dramatic fashion, followed by his email, a live feed of his homepage, and another BBS.

Sarah looked like she was about to speak for him, but Kazu made his presence known before she could start. "Not your fault," he said simply, and let the words hang in the air for a few seconds. "Someone once told me, in times of uncertainty, to tell myself something that I thought I knew, and then to tell myself the exact opposite and try to accept it."

Kazuhiro didn't look away from his computer, but Sarah glanced at him, making it clear exactly who had told him that. "I mean... This happened to us. We didn't want to come back into the spotlight. It's not our fault."

Sarah smiled and looked back at Rigel. "We walked into this willingly," she said, echoing Kazu's words. "We wanted to become who we once were. It's all our fault."

After a few seconds, Kazu stopped typing. His screen displayed a desktop covered with icons-- no Web pages, no feeds from his viewer-progs, and no Navi, at least until a ghostly white image appeared in a window in his bottom-left corner, an androgynous white face with an expressino so blank that Sarah almost didn't see the small smile on its features.

Can you hear us, Pianissimo? It asked, in an odd double-throated croak. You find yourself in the same situation as us. Are you ready to become worthy of succeeding-- that?" With the word that, it pulled up an image of the Sexy Trio in battle on Kazu's desktop. He is your challenge and your legacy. I'm sure you already know ours. And with the word ours, it pulled up an image of Miyamoto 404 on his homepage, staring upwards through a grove of small, meager trees at the peaceful night sky, with his cloak and scarf blowing in an invisible wind.

Sarah glanced between the others around her for a full minute while they were talking before finally realizing what was happening. "So," she said simply, "I was right."
In response to the seemingly blank face, a hologram of Pianissimo suddenly appeared next to Rigel, leaning against a pillar on the net and smiling slightly.

"I'm ready and try and succeed what he once was," he said, as an image of Swing staring across the ice plains of Sharo appeared, Wo Dao held at his side and his swordsman robes billowing in the icy wind. "He had his own legacy to live up to, though. I doubt he'll stop trying to achieve that just because he's an independent navi now."

A second image appeared, a navi in futuristic armor, with sword and axe strapped to his back and carrying a deadly-looking lance.

Rigel, meanwhile, looked quizzically at Sarah. "You were right?" he asked. "What do you mean?"
Sarah looked over at Kazu, who looked up from the laptop to look Rigel over for the first time in years. Time really had changed both of them, but apparently not enough. Some things just didn't change. In response to Swing's appearance, a small hologram of a female version of the white- faced Navi appeared over the screen of his PET, which was attached horizontally to the side of Kazu's laptop. It stared straight ahead with empty, blank eyes, then vanished as she entered the Net.

"She was right about the oppsites," he said, tapping his PET. "I said the opposite of what I initially thought... and got myself to accept that it was possible."

Kazu was silent for a few moments. Sarah spoke up.

"Is that... Mysterioso?"
"It is..." said Rigel darkly. The scene shifted yet again. Mysterioso was in an area of the net, heavily damaged, and trying to fight off what appeared to be undead heelnavis.

"This may be the end for me, Duke," he said, dodging one of his enemies' attempts to rip his arm off. The Rigel of the time, meanwhile, was actually panicking. "Such power...and I still can't jack you out. Is there anything left you can do?" "There might be," answered Mysterioso. "However...I may still never see you again if I do it." They didn't have time to discuss it. A massive surge of electricity had struck where Mysterioso was standing...but he was gone.

Rigel seemed to lose himself in thought as the scene faded and the hologram of Pianissimo returned. "Seven...almost eight years since that day...and still I know nothing. I've already accepted that he may have been deleted. It's him being perfectly safe I'm not so sure of."
The image of the ivory-faced woman reappeared, hovering in the air over Kazu's PET, and this time her expression was clearly more intense than before, and something was happening in the background.

"Such an age we live in," said Kazu quietly, but he cut himself off as he noticed his Navi's situation.

"I don't mean to be rude, but looks like I've got a job to do. Are you with us?"

Without waiting for an answer, Kazu laid out his chip folder on his lap and started operating with the rapid-fire precision that had earned a name for him all those years ago. Not even bothering to announce his chip choices to his Navi as was the norm among most younger NetBattlers, Sarah watched as her companion multiple-loaded one chip after another into the heavily modified PET.

"Interesting," she said, after a few seconds, partially to Rigel and partially to herself. "It's been a while since he explained about his PET to me. I know it's heavily modified, but I forgot the rest."
With a hurried apology to Sarah, Kazu turned back to the computer screen, clearly too absorbed in the task of operating Titania to accomplish any kind of human interaction. Sarah, too, leaned closer to him to observe.

"ACDC's changed since I was last here," said Kazu as he slotted-in two chips. The odd thing was how he did it. His PET had a single chip slot on the face, but Kazu used two of the three extra ones on the side simultaneously, then hovered his finger over a button in the top-right corner as if he needed to press it at the exact right moment.

"More nasties, and more CustomNavis to deal with them. I guess with prosperity comes scavengers."
"More nasties indeed. Looks to me like they've tried to assemble an army," said Rigel, sending three chips to Pianissimo in one fluid motion. "Four against almost thirty. Hardly seems fair."

Rigel watched as Pianissimo cut through sound itself, before he and the others went to work on the virus army. Soon, two bush-like viruses were down, as well as all the bunny and spikey viruses. Each of the most powerful, each of what was probably the most annoying, and...two others. Some of the others were damaged as well. Rigel added a few words to his comment, as though he knew this would happen.

"Not fair for them, that is."

Indeed, the viruses' counterattacks were uncoordinated and largely ineffective. A cannon managed to blast Pianissimo, but it didn't even slow him down. Indeed, Pianissimo was already back in the fray.

"Shotgun, if you would," he said after attacking the strange bat-like viruses. Rigel wondered why he was getting rid of the sword chip so soon, but didn't argue. Inserting the shotgun chip into his own PET, he looked over at Kazu's, wondering why he needed to simultaneously insert chips into different slots.
"I'll be back in a minute," Rigel said to Kazu, getting up from the bench after watching Pianissimo and his allies lay waste to the group of viruses before them. "Going to get a few upgrades to Pianissimo."

Only waiting a few seconds for a response, Rigel walked away toward the Metroline, cape blowing in the wind as it trailed behind him.
Kazu looked up from the news on his screen just in time to see Rigel's back. "Hold on!" He said loudly, standing up. "I was just going there." He got no response; Rigel was already out of earshot. You probably deserved it, Kazu told himself. You've been paying more attention to your computer and your Navis than your fellow humans.

A little irritated, Kazu's dark hair tossed as he turned hgis face back to the screen, but he was interrupted by the one exception to the reprimand he had given himself.

"We can continue the battle from home," she said, placing one hand on his shoulder. "It's getting late, and I've been looking forward to something to eat."

Kazu sighed and looked up at her, one of the few remaining symbols of his past. It brought back memories, but now he wasn't sure if he wanted them. It was a new age dawning, and until now he hadn't considered himself part of it.

"I'll take care of things," she said, taking the computer from him. "Just drive."

In the dimming light, she tried to perfect his technique of balancing the computer on the way to the car.